For the third day in a row, one bird after another flew into my father’s tent and tore into the canvas. On the first day, the maidservants mended the tear. On the second day they let it be, saying that in their opinion, the increased air circulation would do him some good, perhaps even revive him. And on the third day, at the sight of one open tear after another, a whisper spread around the camp, saying that this could be nothing else but an omen. It was on the fourth day that my mother decided to go in and see the old man.
By now she has sent away the maidservants, dismissed the guard and told me to stand near the entry, where the rope is double knotted over the peg of the tent, and prepare myself. I am itchy. The goatskin sleeve around my arm feels heavy and moist with sweat. It is as hairy as my twin brother Esav, perhaps even hairier.
“Look at that sleeve,” she tells me. “It is not a costume. This is your skin. Feel it. Smell it. Say to yourself: My name is not Yankle. I am not me. I am bold, fierce, adventurous. I am my father’s favorite son. I am Esav.”
I fix the fur hat on my head, wipe the sweat off my upper lip and try to tell myself, over and over, that this arm is no longer mine. It is his. I am him. As such, this is to be my lucky day. It has started well: My brother has been out of the way all morning, hunting somewhere up there, in the mountains. Meanwhile, the stew for my father’s meal has been dished into a plate and covered with a lid, ready to be carried in.
This is more than a meal. It is a token, a love offering from the son he loves. The chosen one. In exchange, the old man is to give his blessing, at which time his power will diminish. And the son, the one he loves, will take his place, and replace him as the head of the family, inheriting all his possessions.
The plot is ready, and my role, I repeat to myself, is well-rehearsed. Well, as well as can be. According to my mother, there is no time, and no need, really, for any more practice. Trying too hard, as you know, may be the best guaranty for failure.
“Your father is blind. Fool him,” she says. “But do so, if you can, without resorting to lies.”
To which I say, “How—”
“Don’t you know?” she says, teasingly. “Think! What is the best, the most reliable way to deceive? It is this: Pay attention to what he needs, and then confirm that which he wants to believe, as if, Yankle, as if it were true.”
Yankle in A Favorite Son
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